Quick Answer: Many fans of The Vampire Diaries were shocked at the announcement that Nina Dobrev was leaving after the sixth season. How would the show survive without its protagonist, Elena Gilbert? What would happen to the other characters? These doubts and fears weighed heavy on the hearts of devoted fans. However, counterintuitive as it may seem, Elena’s exit was the best thing that could have happened for the show. With Elena gone, the show's focus was able to shift to other characters and relationships.
Having just wrapped its seventh season, the CW’s The Vampire Diaries (2009 - ) has had a devoted fan following since it premiered. In fact, the show's pilot was the CW's most-watched season premiere to date, and the first season averaged 3.60 million viewers. Despite these numbers, I was reluctant to give The Vampire Diaries a chance. The show premiered at the height of vampire mania, so I was all for a break from the blood-sucking ubiquity. After some convincing, I gave the show a shot. I was hooked.
Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder in The Vampire Diaries
After my conversion into a loyal fan, I, like many viewers, was shocked at the announcement that Nina Dobrev was leaving after the sixth season. How would the show survive without its protagonist, Elena Gilbert? What would happen to the other characters? These doubts and fears weighed heavy on the hearts of devoted fans. However, counterintuitive as it may seem, Elena’s exit was the best thing that could have happened for the show.
Although Elena Gilbert was a fan favorite, the character was starting to get a bit old. Many of Elena's plotlines had begun to feel trite, and her character was starting to seem, for lack of a better word, tired. As heartbreaking as Elena's final episode might have been, it felt like it was time. The brilliance of Season 7 proved that the show didn't need Elena to function. With Elena gone, the show's focus was able to shift to other characters. Damon, Stefan, Caroline and Bonnie were able to stand in the spotlight. Not only characters, but relationships, both platonic and otherwise, received more screen time. Indeed, many new unexpected relationships came to fruition in Season 7: Bonnie and Damon, Caroline and Alaric, Enzo and Bonnie! Most importantly, the show was able to spend more time exploring the brotherhood of Damon and Stefan.
Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley
Elena's exit was the perfect opportunity to shift our focus back to the core relationship of the show. It was never Stefan and Elena or Damon and Elena. The backbone of the show was always the uneasy bond between Stefan and Damon. The love/hate relationship between the Salvatore brothers may have wavered, but blood, as they say, is thicker than water, especially if you're a vampire. Their relationship often took the back seat to the never-ending love triangle between Elena, Stefan and Damon. With Elena's departure, it's a relief to have the brothers relationship in the driver's seat once more.
Though the show has proved capable of surviving without its main protagonist, it's hard to imagine that The Vampire Diaries will continue on for much longer. Both Kat Graham (Bonnie) and Ian Somerhalder (Damon) have confirmed they will be leaving after Season 8. After losing so many key characters, it will be difficult for the show to bounce back. Continuing without Elena is one thing, but without Damon Salvatore and Bonnie Bennett? Let's hope that the showrunners have a firm sense of when enough is enough. Unlike vampires, not everything can live forever.